On September 2, 2011, in a move that surprised both businesses and environmentalists, President Obama instructed EPA to withdraw the draft ozone ambient air quality standards, promising reconsideration of the standard in 2013 based upon an updated review of the science. The President cited the need to reduce regulatory burdens and uncertainty while the economy recovers.
Businesses had argued that compliance with the proposed standard would be virtually impossible for many companies and industries, and would have been even more challenging in a slow economy. State and local governments that have spent years bringing their air quality into compliance with the old standard would have had to start over again. In the meantime, many areas of the nation would have been designated “nonattainment” for not meeting the new standard, a status that makes expansion of existing plants and the development of new plants far more expensive. Moreover, EPA proposed its new standards at the same time it was issuing mandates for stringent new controls on Midwest power plants due to their alleged impacts on downwind states’ ability to meet the existing ozone standard. 76 Fed. Reg. 48,208 (August 8, 2011).
The President’s action is not a permanent stay. EPA vigorously opposed any delay in implementing the new standards and will continue to argue for more stringent ozone rules. Businesses and local governments concerned about the ozone standards will need to continue to monitor EPA’s study of ozone’s environmental and health effects and to continue to participate in the federal rulemaking process.